THE SITE: The Leonard Feather Scrapbooks
THE ADDRESS: www.jazzcentralstation.com
THE REASON: A fan's notes
In the century that gave the world the uniquely African-American music form called jazz, it was the son of Jewish parents from Hampstead, England, who did perhaps more than anyone else to chronicle its development.
Young Leonard Geoffrey Feather was supposed to follow in his father's footsteps into the real estate business, but that changed forever after a friend asked him to listen to a new Parlaphone Records release, Louis Armstrong's "West End Blues."
For the rest of his 80 years, Feather would be, for many, the one they would turn to to find out what was happening in the jazz world. A prolific journalist, author of 11 books and jazz critic for the Los Angeles Times, he was, when he died four years ago this month, still busy completing a revision of his highly regarded "Encyclopedia of Jazz."
Describing himself as a modestly talented clarinetist and pianist, Feather nevertheless worked with some of the most renowned jazz artists. He produced recordings of Dinah Washington, Charlie Parker, Sarah Vaughn and Lester Young, among others, and wrote some 200 compositions recorded by such notables as Ella Fitzgerald, B.B. King, Cannonball Adderley and Mel Torme. His insightful liner notes graced literally thousands of recordings. Armstrong, Feather's original muse, often praised him as "one cat who really knows what's going on."
Jazzcentralstation.com, which over the last few years has offered elegant tributes to a number of jazz luminaries, placed its spotlight last month on Feather, offering the first three chapters of a four-part series, "The Leonard Feather Scrapbooks." (The final chapter will appear next month.)
Utilizing material gleaned from Feather's actual scrapbooks -- which were donated by his wife, Jane, to the Lionel Hampton School of Music at the University of Idaho -- the series provides an intimate, often first-person, account of his career and the who's-who of the jazz world he met along the way.
The first chapter, "Arrivals," retraces his early years and tells how the letters of an earnest young music fan to the British publication Melody Maker led to his employment as a writer, which in turn led to his meeting and forming a lifelong friendship with Armstrong. The second chapter, "Fireworks," finds Feather going from jazz fan to jazz influence. "Transitions," the third chapter, looks at the transitional period in the mid-1940s when big bands made some of their most memorable music and small jazz groups began gaining in popularity.
With customary attention to detail, jazzcentralstation.com has included samples of important recordings, a gallery of rare photos and downloadable film clips from Feather's TV shows, "Feather on Jazz" and "The Subject Is Jazz." You'll also find listed some of Feather's favorite recordings.